Monday, May 30, 2011

Pet Therapy

As I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, I was hospitalized just a few days after my college graduation due to a severe flare of Ulcerative Colitis. I had been wanting a puppy for quite some time, and thought that this hospitalization was the perfect opportunity to guilt my Dad into buying me one. "Those dogs need help just like I need help right now, Dad," I would say. "I would not just be saving a dog, the dog would be saving me too." While in the middle of one of my infamous guilt trips, my middle-aged and puppy-eyed nurse who just happened to suffer from Crohn's disease herself chimed in, "I saved a dog three years ago and I have been in remission ever since," she turned to my Dad, "haven't you ever heard of pet therapy?" That sealed the deal.

I convinced my father to stop by North Shore Animal League, the nation's largest no-kill shelter, immediately after my discharge from the hospital. With my hospital bracelet still attached and an indelible smile painted on my face, I walked as quickly as I could into the shelter. A small, 10-week old beagle puppy caught my eye and I was sure she was the one. I reached down to save her from her cage, only to find that I was too weak to lift the 6-pound pup. "I think we'll have to come back another time," my father lamented. I huffed and I puffed, but I ultimately relinquished my hopes of bringing home a new member of the family. For now.

It was just a few weeks later when we returned to North Shore Animal League. It was on this trip that I met the love of my life, la Figlia Mia. While I can't say that I have been in remission ever since bringing Figlia home, I can say that I am able to cope with and manage my disease at a level that I hadn't been able to before she became a part of my life. We walk together, which helps me to recover. We play together, which gives me an always-effective dose of laughter. Whenever I cry, she licks away my tears and whenever I laugh she is there to join in my happiness. She needs her belly rubbed every morning, even when I am too sick to get out of my bed, and it is perhaps this fact more than any other that I enjoy; knowing that even when I am relying on others, someone still needs me. Figlia may not be able to cure my disease or prevent side effects and surgical complications, but she gives me something much more important; unconditional love.

As I sit here with my canine friend, 8.5 weeks post-op and 3.5 weeks pre-op (though my second surgery date is yet to be confirmed), I question whether I want to go through another surgery, another hospitalization, and another recovery. My ileostomy has allowed me the freedom, peace of mind, and health that I have been unable to experience in nearly a decade. Yes, it leaks on occasion. Yes, it is a pain to change the ostomy. And, no, I am still not used to seeing my intestine sticking through my abdomen. But would I have it any other way? No. I am so lucky to have my body back, to have my health back and I am not so sure I want to risk complicating that with another procedure. Will I go through with it? Probably, because bag or no bag, Figlia will love me just the same.

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